Materials  |  Audio  |  Poll  | Links to Principles of Democracy Resources  


Should voting be compulsory in our democracy?

Free and fair elections are essential to a democracy. They make true representative government possible. Through voting, people express their views about government. They choose leaders who will improve their country and community. But what happens when people choose not to vote? Does that indicate democracy is thriving or failing? What, if anything, should be done to improve voter turnout?










Links to Principles of Democracy

The nature of democracy changes and grows along with its citizenry, but it’s always based on principles that help citizens modify, uphold, and strengthen their democracy. Visit the DDA Democratic Principles and Activities page to learn more about the principles underlying democracy and gain access to activities that help students understand the complexity of democracy. 

We’ve identified some democratic principles addressed in this lesson “Should voting be compulsory in our democracy?”  What principles might you add to the list below?

Please click here for a pdf of the fourteen principles handout on our Democratic Principles & Activities page.


Accepting the Results of Elections


Accepting the Results of Elections 
In elections there are winners and losers. Occasionally, the losers believe so strongly that their party or candidate is the best that they refuse to accept that they lost an election.  Assuming an election has been judged “free and fair,” ignoring or rejecting election results violates democratic principles.  Democracy depends on a peaceful transfer of power from one set of leaders to the next, so accepting the results of a free and fair election is essential.



In a democracy elected and appointed officials are responsible for their actions and have to be accountable to the people. Officials must make decisions and perform their duties according to the will and wishes of the people they represent, not for themselves or their friends.
Bill of Rights


Bill of Rights
Most democratic countries have a list of citizens’ rights and freedoms.  Often called a “Bill of Rights,” this document limits the power of government and explains the freedoms that are guaranteed to all people in the country.  It protects people from a government that might abuse its powers.  When a Bill of Rights becomes part of a country’s constitution, the courts have the power to enforce these rights.

Citizen Participation


Citizen Participation
One of the most basic principles of a democracy is citizen participation in government. Participation is more than just a right—it is a duty. Citizen participation may take many forms, including running for election, voting in elections, becoming informed, debating issues, attending community meetings, being members of private voluntary organizations, paying taxes, serving on a jury, and even protesting.  Citizen participation builds a better democracy.

Regular Free and Fair Elections


Regular Free and Fair Elections 
One way citizens express their will is by electing officials to represent them in government.  In a democracy elections are held regularly, usually every few years.  Democracy insists that elected officials are chosen by the people in a free and fair manner.  Most adult citizens should have the right to vote and to run for office—regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, and level of wealth.  Additionally, obstacles should not exist which make it difficult for people to vote.  There should be no intimidation, corruption, or threats to citizens before or during an election. 


Selected Resources

ABC News, “ABC News Poll: Compulsory Voting” (June 11, 2004),

Carter, Jimmy, “Peru Can Give U.S. Lessons in How to Hold Elections,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution (April 22, 2001), available from the Carter Center,

“Compulsory Enrollment and Voting” (Kensington, NSW, Australia: Australasian LegalInformation Institute, Legal Information Access Centre, 2001),

Dean, John W., “Is It Time to Consider Mandatory Voting Laws?” Writ: FindLaw’s Legal Commentary (February 23, 2003),

Gratschew, Maria, “Compulsory Voting” (Stockholm, Sweden: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, April 2001),

“Presidential Elections: IDEA Voter Turnout Report” (Stockholm, Sweden: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, November 12, 2004),

Jackman, Simon, “Compulsory Voting,” a contribution to Elsevier’s International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (December 1, 2004),'Compulsory%20Voting%20Simon%20Ja

Palda, Filip, “Vote. Or Else!” Fraser Forum (February 2001),

Parliament of Australia, Parliamentary Library. “Research Brief: Compulsory Voting in Australian National Elections.” March 3, 2008.  Accessed June 14, 2011.

United Press International, “Mandatory Voting Proposed in Canada,” The Washington Times (January 1, 2005),